What is Pathophysiology?

Updated on September 9, 2023
What is pathophysiology?

Defining pathophysiology

What Is Pathophysiology? Pathophysiology is the science of examining the regions and systems that become infected or compromised due to disease or injury. In essence, it delves into the intricate mechanisms of organ and organism systems.

Pathophysiology is often confused with physiology. Physiology is the study of the mechanism of systems of organs and organisms.

Pathophysiology is the detailed study of the dysfunctional processes within an organism due to disease. This field of study becomes meaningful only when we comprehensively understand how these systems function in a healthy and normal state. Pathophysiology enables us to grasp how these systems respond to the emergence of abnormalities.

Additionally, when systems transition from a diseased state back to equilibrium, pathophysiology unveils their new and previously unknown physiological characteristics.

Distinguishing Pathology from Pathophysiology

It is crucial to differentiate between pathology and pathophysiology, as they are distinct disciplines. Pathology primarily concerns disease diagnosis, cause, and nature, serving as a purely medical branch of science. In contrast, pathophysiology delves into the abnormal or imbalanced functions of systems caused by diseases. This discipline is not limited to the medical field; it is also employed for research purposes and enhances our understanding of the physiology of various systems.

Pathophysiology investigates the norms within different organisms through experiments and measurements, using calculations to determine the levels of various compounds throughout the body. These recorded data points contribute to forming a diagnosis. On the other hand, in pathology, healthcare professionals directly observe patients, conduct tests, and identify symptoms to determine the disease they are experiencing. Pathology necessitates the microscopic examination of tissues and organs in the afflicted body.

In contrast, pathophysiology involves comparing the levels of biochemical compounds to what is perceived as normal. It serves as the science behind managing diseased systems and working towards their stabilization through medical interventions and external stimuli.

How Knowing Pathophysiology Helps You Deal With Diseased Systems Better

Knowing the pathophysiology is necessary for people in the medical field. This field helps in taking care of patients suffering from chronic diseases. Knowing the pathophysiology will assist the caretaker in reducing the symptoms of the disease and improve the patient’s quality of life.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder that results from the increased loss of dopamine in the brain; the death of dopaminergic neurons is the cause. The researchers are not completely sure why this neural death happens, but they think the following reasons are closely related to this neural degeneration. One is the development of Lewy bodies in the brain. These cause dementia because they displace the brain cells from their place, disrupting the neural structure’s consistency. The second reason is a slow degeneration of the cells and a slowing down of regeneration of cells.

Another reason is the brain and blood vessel barrier breakdown, meaning the blood vessels start to leak in the brain, causing degeneration and disruption in neural activity. Though the symptoms of Parkinson’s are curable, understanding its pathophysiology has helped the medical field develop methods to slow down its progression.

Deep brain stimulation therapy, neuron-protective treatment, etc. Most of all, the medical practitioner can prepare the patient and his or her caretakers about the future progression and deterioration caused by it, preparing them in advance and readying them mentally to deal with it.   

Heart failure

It is one of the most commonly heard about diseases. The causes of eventual heart failure are decreased in the efficacy of heart muscles because of damage or continuous stress. The number one cause of heart failure is hypertension because of which force of contraction to pump blood increases, causing stress on the heart. Another possible reason for heart failure is a mitochondrial infraction, meaning the heart tissue is starved of oxygen and start to die.

Amyloidosis is when proteins are deposited on the heart muscles, causing it to stiffen. There are many other causes of eventual heart failure, too. But these causes over the time change the physiology. Through the pathophysiology of the heart, we learn how the system has been affected and what are the things we can do to slow down the degeneration.


Understanding the pathophysiology of any disease holds significant importance for caregivers. This knowledge equips them to manage symptoms and comprehend their underlying causes effectively. Furthermore, a grasp of pathophysiology enables anticipating and proactively handling a disease’s progression. This discipline facilitates access to the necessary medical treatments and imparts insights into how one can adapt one’s daily routines in light of one’s condition.

For instance, individuals grappling with kidney failure are advised to avoid protein-rich foods, which can exacerbate the condition. Similarly, heart failure patients are cautioned against consuming foods high in fats and cholesterol. Proficiency in pathophysiology empowers individuals to approach their ailments with a long-term, proactive perspective rather than seeking momentary relief or temporary solutions.

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